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Berlin, Paris, Liverpool: ‘Biennialization’ and Left Critique in 2012

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This article examines three European examples of the ‘biennale’ phenomenon from 2012 in order to explore Charlotte Bydler’s insistence that there is no ‘biennial format’, no single ‘biennial discourse’, and the ‘only way to historicize a biennial is to identify its specificity’. It will argue two main points: first, that instances of ‘specificity’, evident in relationships between artworks and audiences, constituencies and communities, are in tension with curatorial conventions of so-called ‘biennial culture’ and ‘biennialization’; second, that responding to conflicting characteristics of biennales is a challenge to leftists wary and weary of, on the one hand, reductive characterizations – treating instances as homogeneous manifestations of the market – and, on the other, melancholic retreats into claims for the power of aesthetic judgments and experiences as counter to capitalism’s culture of spectacle.
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Keywords: Berlin Biennale; Liverpool Biennial; Occupy; Paris Triennale; biennialization; left critique

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Keele University

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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  • The Journal of Curatorial Studies is an international, peer-reviewed publication that explores the cultural functioning of curating and its relation to exhibitions, institutions, audiences, aesthetics and display culture. The journal takes a wide perspective in the inquiry into what constitutes "the curatorial." Curating has evolved considerably from the connoisseurship model of arranging objects to now encompass performative, virtual and interventionist strategies. While curating as a spatialized discourse of art objects remains important, the expanded cultural practice of curating not only produces exhibitions for audiences to view, but also plays a catalytic role in redefining aesthetic experience, framing cultural conditions in institutions and communities, and inquiring into constructions of knowledge and ideology.
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